Following last year’s superb season, during which the Cornell wrestlers placed 11th at the NCAA championships, Rob Koll, the David R. Dunlop ’59 Head Coach of Wrestling, and his staff started solidifying their recruiting class for this year. The fruits of those labors are 10 accomplished freshmen from across the country, to whom Koll will look to continue the success of his program in the coming years.Six of the newcomers earned high school All-America honors and are among several who should make an immediate impact on the Red’s lineup.
Bridge joins his older brother, Ryan, on the Red after a successful career at Absegami High School, where he captured the state championship at 125 pounds as a senior after placing third and fifth during his junior and sophomore seasons, respectively. He was victorious in his final 32 matches and helped his team to a perfect 90-0 record in dual meets over the course of his career. Bridge was ranked third among all senior wrestlers from New Jersey by InterMat.
One of the top grapplers from the state of Washington, Rodriguez was a two-time state champion whose bid for a third title came up short due to an injury at this year’s state finals in the 125-pound bracket. He began his career at Kamiakin High School with a second-place finish at 103 pounds as a freshman. In 2003, Rodriguez was also a junior national champion in Greco-Roman at 112 pounds.
Leen, considered the top senior wrestler in Tennessee by InterMat, was a four-time state champion at the Baylor School and is coming off a first-place finish at the NHSCA Seniors National Wrestling Championships in the 130-pound bracket. For his efforts at nationals, he was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.” The all-time winningest wrestler in Tennessee history (214 victories), Leen helped Baylor capture three state titles and a pair of state dual championships.
A trio of middleweight wrestlers should make a strong impact as freshmen, led by All-America honorable mention selections Steve Anceravage (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and Drake Hovis (St. Louis, MO), along with Mike Mackie (Brandywine, Pa.).
Anceravage completed a highly successful career by capturing a state title at 152 pounds after helping his team win the Class AA state dual championship. He was a state runner-up as a junior and earned fourth- and sixth-place finishes at the 2003 junior nationals in Greco-Roman and freestyle, respectively. Despite being one of a few scholastic wrestlers entered at the 2003 junior world trials, Anceravage lost just twice and won five matches against NCAA Division I wrestlers to place sixth among 37 contenders at 145 pounds. Hovis was a three-time state champion at The Whitfield School and captured fifth-place at the 2003 junior nationals freestyle competition after a fourth-place cadet finish the previous year in Greco-Roman. The Missouri Wrestling Association’s wrestler of the year in Class 1, Hovis finished his high school career with a record of 160-5. He also was named to Wrestling USA magazine’s high school All-America academic team.
A second-place finisher at the Pennsylvania state championships as a junior, Mackie also took home a third-place finish as a senior for Brandywine Heights High School. Mackie won the District III championship in 2004 and went on to earn the 173-pound title at this year’s War at the South Jersey Shore.
As for the upper-weight classes, the Cornell will bring in three talented grapplers who have a chance to break into the starting lineup early on.
Zach Hammond (Mays Landing, N.J.) spent last year training as a post-grad at national powerhouse Blair Academy after graduating from Absegami High School in 2003. Competing with Blair’s college team, Hammond captured second place at 235 pounds at the NCWA national championships and defeated the reigning high school national champion, Adam Cooney. Hammond was a third-place finisher for Absegami at the 2003 New Jersey state championships after earning sixth place the previous year.
An honorable mention high school All-American, Doug Weidner (Perkesie, Pa.) was a state-runner-up as a senior at Pennridge High School after finishing fourth as a junior. Weidner won the fifth-place bout at the 2003 Beast of the East tournament.
Stephen Yanchuck (Bristow, Va.) was a four-time placer in the Virginia state tournament during his career at Brentsville District High School. His best finish was second as a junior at 215 pounds and after moving up to the 275-pound class as a senior, Yanchuck earned a sixth-place standing. In the 2004 Virginia vs. Maryland all-star meet, Yanchuck posted a win to help the Virginia B team earn a victory.
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor